The officer-involved shooting at the Vistas at Eastwood in Fort Myers on Wednesday was at least the sixth of the year for Southwest Florida.
On Jan. 9, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper shot a woman on I-75 in Collier County.
Then on March 17, a Lee County deputy was shot in the shoulder during a chase. He returned fire, killing the suspect.
On March 25, a teen shot at a Lee County deputy in Lehigh Acres. The teen fled but ultimately turned himself in.
Just four days later, Cape Coral officers said a woman pointed a gun at them after reports of a stabbing. Officers fired several times at her.
In May, Cape Coral officers shot and killed a man who they say attacked them with a metal pipe.
As of Wednesday, there are 88 officer-involved shootings across the state of Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which will investigate the Vistas at Eastwood incident.
For officers, it all comes down to seconds to protect people nearby and themselves.
Just four years ago, the Fort Myers Police Department lost an officer in the line of duty. Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller was shot on July 21, 2018. The Fort Myers Police Department said he was pursuing Wisner Desmaret over a stolen phone when the Fort Myers man took the officer’s gun and used it against him. Jobbers-Miller died a week later. Desmaret is still awaiting trial.
In 2008, the department lost Officer Andrew Widman after he responded to a fight in downtown Fort Myers.
FMPD Lt. Roger Valdivia said losing an officer is never easy.
“They’re family,” Valdivia said. “You know, you work with these people day in and day out. You trust these people to have your back if you’re on that kind of a call.”
Valdivia was on scene the night of Widman’s death and he still remembers it in great detail.
“When you have an officer laying on the road, not moving and you see pools of blood, you know they don’t equal to a very good outcome,” Valdivia said.
The violent trend continues into 2022 with the latest at the Vistas at Eastwood where Fort Myers police officers were met with gunfire.
FGCU forensic studies professor David Thomas said the pandemic could be to blame for the spike in violence.
“You are seeing people who have left to their own devices,” Thomas said. “They have spent a tremendous amount of time on the internet. And their stressors now today, now are, you know, the only way they know how to resolve this is through some act of violence.”
Officers are trained to make split-second decisions.
But it’s a challenge, especially when things go wrong.
“You can’t get caught up in that moment. You just have to stay level-headed,” Valdivia said.